Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bud Powell: Birdland 1953

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Bud Powell biographer Peter Pullman refers to 1953 as the busiest year of the pianist’s career. It didn’t begin in the best of ways: Powell ended 16 months of occupancy in mental institutions. Before the calendar turned again, he would participate in the “Greatest Jazz Concert Ever,” at Toronto’s Massey Hall with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. But before and after Massey Hall, the pianist played almost weekly trio dates at Birdland, which were recorded and broadcast over the radio. His bandmates changed frequently yet Powell never ceased to amaze, playing with a stream of creativity that seemed to flow effortlessly from his hands. ESP-Disk’ and a few other labels have released these performances previously in single albums, but this three-disc collection offers a closer look at a very important time in Powell’s life.

A few years prior to these shows, the pianist recorded his now-classic tunes “Un Poco Loco,” “Dance of the Infidels” and “Glass Enclosure” for Blue Note. Hearing them live offers proof that they existed outside of the studio and that, in most cases, they were expanded and deepened on a regular basis. Art Taylor’s snare and brushes ably take the place of Max Roach’s vociferous cowbell in three solid versions of “Un Poco Loco.” Powell plays the intro to “Dance of the Infidels” in tempo, leading into a furious torrent of ideas, especially on the second of six versions, with Taylor and Mingus moving right with him.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published